Cyprus Environment Featured Saving the world’s rarest marine mammal in Cyprus

NEWS Wednesday, 28 April, 2021

Cyprus Environment Featured Saving the world’s rarest marine mammal in Cyprus

Did you know that the Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus) is currently the most endangered marine mammal species in the Mediterranean and the rarest species in the world?

With fewer than 700 individuals currently surviving in the Mediterranean Sea, we have about 19 individuals currently in Cyprus.

Some of the major threats to this majestic animal are: tourist activities and related marine recreational practices, increased urbanisation levels in surrounding areas, the loss and destruction of their habitats and overfishing of their prey.

The Mediterranean monk seal Monachus monachus has been recently recategorised from Critically Endangered to Endangered on the IUCN Red List global assessment due to the increase in population size over the last few years.

The global species population is listed with fewer than 700 individuals of which approximately 350-450 are mature individuals. Today, the distribution of the Mediterranean monk seal in the Mediterranean Sea is recorded at the islands of the Ionian and Aegean seas, along the coasts of mainland Greece, Cyprus and southern and western Turkey. There also have been some sporadic sightings of individual monk seals in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Spain, Italy, Croatia and Albania.

The species was first officially reported in Cyprus in 1959 and since then, the population in Cyprus steadily declined. Field surveys that were conducted in 1997 and between 2005-2006 identified suitable habitat for the species in Cyprus but did not record any reproductive activity. A recent study conducted between 2009 and 2018, showed a very promising future for the species in Cyprus.